Jewish Jeopardy game livens up federation meeting

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

There were no “potent potables” until the wine bar opened afterward, but the crowd at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco found the game of Jewish Jeopardy categorically delightful.

The game — complete with giant-screen Jeopardy board and tuxedoed Alex Trebek impersonator — took place at the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation’s annual meeting June 5.

Ostensibly, the meeting had serious business on the agenda. Outgoing federation president John Pritzker passed the baton to new president James Koshland. Incoming CEO Daniel Sokatch said hello, and retiring Jewish Community Endowment Fund Director Phyllis Cook said goodbye.

In between calling for votes to approve new board members and handing out awards of excellence, organizers staged the Jeopardy game, played by 12 Jewish community leaders. The categories and “answers” boasted local Jewish themes — with a few nutty exceptions.

It all made for more than a few big laughs.

The players were divided into three teams: the Menorahs, the Mezuzahs and the Matzahs. Host and faux-Trebek Dan Leemon let out his inner Henny Youngman as he kept things moving with a ready joke (“The Menorahs are on fire!”).

During player introductions, Bureau of Jewish Education Director David Waksberg quipped, “If I get it wrong, my name is Bob Sherman,” referring to his predecessor.

Other players included Ed Cushman (Hebrew Free Loan Association), Rabbi Doug Kahn (Jewish Community Relations Council), Ezzy Schusterman (Friendship Circle), Deborah Pinsky (Peninsula Jewish Community Center), Leslie Kane (Holocaust Center of Northern California), Rabbi Stacy Friedman (Congregation Rodef Sholom), Rabbi Eric Weiss (Bay Area Healing Center), David Rubinstein (Hillel of Sonoma), Nurit Robinson (Menorah Park) and Rabbi Avraham Schochet (South Peninsula Hebrew Day School).

Leemon reminded players to answer in the form of a question. With the game underway, player and JCCSF Executive Director Sandee Blechman promptly (and unapologetically) failed to do so.

In the category of “Caring for the Vulnerable,” Weiss rang in quickly. The jeopardy “answer” was “Federation funding for this organization helps support weekend retreats for bereaved families.” Weiss knew the correct response was the organization he heads: the Bay Area Healing Center. When he was told he was incorrect, the rabbi shouted, “But that’s us!” (For the record, he was right.)

Responding to the answer, “Only about a quarter of Jewish children receive Jewish education after this event,” Friedman rang in with: “What is the bris?”

Once the laughter died down, Leemon responded, “Can you blame them?” (Correct response: “What is the bar or bat mitzvah?”)

In the category “Famous Feds,” the $300 “answer” was “This famous fed was said to prefer floral print frocks and silky underwear.”

No one knew the correct response: Who was former FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover?

For the final Jeopardy round, the category was “Jewish Movies.” Contestants listened to a musical theme and had to determine the film from which it came.

Then, Ernest Gold’s dramatic “Exodus” theme filled Kanbar Hall. The Matzahs and the Menorahs were by then battling it out for the victory (sadly, the Mezuzahs were left hanging).

The first-place prize of free ads in j. was tantalizingly close.

The Matzahs correctly chose “Exodus” (adding in Magic Marker, “Can someone explain why Eva Marie Saint was in the movie?”). The other two teams also got the right answer. But there can only be one winner in Jeopardy, and on this night, it was the Menorahs.

Tough break for the Matzahs.

Awards of excellence

The following are the winners of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation’s 2008 awards of excellence:

Volunteer of the Year: Tom Kasten.

Agency Staff Person of the Year: Naomi Tucker, executive director of Shalom Bayit.

Program of the Year: Kol Han-eshama, Jewish end of life/hospice volunteer program.

JCF Staff Person of the Year: Mark Reisbaum, director of grants, Jewish Community Endowment Fund.

Judith Chapman Women’s Leader-ship Award: Joelle Steefel.

Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award for Young Leadership: H. Michael Feldman.

Robert Sinton Extraordinary Leader Award: Bernard Osher.

Helen Diller Family Award for Excellence in Jewish Education, Congregation/Community School: Michael Lederman, Temple Sinai, Oakland; Congregation Emanu-El, San Francisco.

Day School: Ziona Tassa, Gideon Hausner Day School.

Early Childhood Education: Lisa Elliot, Peninsula JCC.

Informal Education: Vavi Toran.

Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award: Batshir Torchio, Brandeis Hillel Day School; Linor Eylon, South Peninsula Hebrew Day School.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.